WESLACO: Superintendent Dr. Ruben Alejandro

Superintendent with students 1

LATINO ED: What is your vision for your school district?
DR. ALEJANDRO: My vision for my school district is that I want to empower all students to be 21st Century Learners. That might seem like rhetoric given that everyone appears to be saying the same thing. The only difference with us is that we have implemented a culture where every single employee is a stakeholder in our students’ education. This will help us address the “Whole Child” and will make every student come to school ready to learn. The Whole Child approach takes into account the socio-emotional part of a child as well as their academic potential. Our goal is that every single child that comes through Weslaco ISD will be a success for their entire life until the day they decide to retire.

LATINO ED: What inspires, motivates, and drives you? What are you most passionate about?
DR. ALEJANDRO: My sole purpose in my job is to create our future leaders who will change the world and make it a better place. I like to empower students and staff to make decisions that are going to help them excel. I see the potential in students and staff and my passion is to help them recognize and build those skills. I like to visit classrooms as often as I can and interact with students. Find out what they are doing, what they are learning, why it is important and how they like being able to use their smart phones or other digital devices in their lessons. When students are engaged and learning, you can actually see their young minds working and there is nothing more inspirational or motivating than that. I am just passionate about helping to make students 21st Century Learners. This is what motivates me to come to work every day, seven days a week.

LATINO ED: Have there been cuts to your district’s state funding in recent years? If so, what impact are these cuts having on your district?
DR. ALEJANDRO: There have been several cuts and certain requirements that have had a major impact on our District. It started in the 82nd Legislative Session in which we were cut 5.7 million dollars. Payroll being a major portion of our budget, a hiring freeze was implemented to make up the loss.
Recently, sequestration has cut an additional 1 million dollars from our Title I budget. Both of these cuts have forced us to reduce or eliminate several programs that were needed to assist our struggling students making their success much more difficult. Also, the required 20 percent of Title I funds for SES providers was causing further restrictions on our ability to provide quality programs for our struggling students. Nevertheless, we realize that all staff are critical factors in our students’ success and therefore, in spite of the cuts, we were still able to give our staff a healthy raise.

LATINO ED: What is your perspective on the recent changes enacted by the Texas Legislature in the form of House Bill 5 and what impact will these changes have in your district?
DR. ALEJANDRO: HB5 has allowed a temporary solution to the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) mandate and was implemented without a clear understanding of the barriers that NCLB eventually reached. My staff and I have been meeting and reviewing the requirements of HB5 and have been integrating them into our instructional program. This approach has minimized the impact on the District. A team of central office directors ensure that information is trickled down to the campuses. During changes such as HB5 the key is understanding the changes and communicating those changes to the stakeholders. Staff includes all central office administration as well as all campus administrators, teachers and support staff.

LATINO ED: What, in your opinion, are your school district’s greatest assets? What is unique about your district that sets it apart from others in the Rio Grande Valley?
DR. ALEJANDRO: Our greatest asset is our students. I started as superintendent in June 2012 and immediately met with staff to develop a vision for the district. Our vision, Empowering 21st Century Learners, was radical in the sense that it was implemented district wide for all 18,000 students and all 2,400 staff members (including maintenance, food service, security, custodial, energy management, transportation, instructional staff, and every single employee in the district). Everyone embraced the challenge and using the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach began maximizing learning through the use of digital devices. District wide, we have created a culture of anytime/anywhere 24/7 learners. Our District was so successful, that we scored in the upper quartile of the state rankings. Research shows that when a new initiative is implemented there is a learning curve, but in our District we defied the norm and succeeded the very first year of our new initiative and that is what sets us apart from all other Districts in the Rio Grande Valley, the state and the nation.

LATINO ED: Charter schools appear to be spreading throughout the region. What impact are these schools having on your school district, if any?
DR. ALEJANDRO: Charter schools are having an impact on our schools by recruiting our students to their schools. Many of these students do not all stay in the Charter Schools but end up returning to our District. These are usually struggling students that need additional help. In spite of these additional obstacles, we continue to provide the very best quality education to all our students.

LATINO ED: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as superintendent?
DR. ALEJANDRO: My greatest accomplishment as a superintendent and transformational leader is that I have been able to gain the trust and faith of not only the school community but the community of Weslaco to launch our vision. I have been able to influence the city that they are an integral stakeholder in the education of our citizens. The bond is so strong that we have established a 21st Century Community Partnership with our city. One issue that we are currently undertaking is truancy. I formed a district committee and invited city and county officials to collaborate with us in this effort. Both parties understand the significance of working together to save our children and provide them with a quality education. If a student is not in school, he cannot learn. If he cannot learn, he cannot prepare for his future. If they do not prepare for their future, society is faced with the task of providing for this social group. Another community project is our 0-3 Weslaco Reads Project. We are working with the CEO of our local hospital, Day Cares, Head Starts the public library to initiate a digital e-book program where students are exposed to reading before birth to the age of 3 years old. This will get them ready to learn by the time they become school age. I have been able to get students and staff in our district to help me accomplish my goal of ensuring that each student in our district is highly successful for their entire lives until the day they decide to retire.

LATINO ED: What are your biggest worries as superintendent?
DR. ALEJANDRO: My biggest worry is to lose one child. At Weslaco ISD, all students count. I hold myself responsible and every stakeholder responsible for the success of every single student enrolled at Weslaco ISD.

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